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Arizona football: Wildcats get thumped by Bruins again

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Rebecca Noble

Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate (14) suffers a resounding sack delivered by UCLA defensive lineman Takkarist McKinley (98) during Arizona’s 45-24 loss to UCLA at the Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena, Calif. on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2016. 

The Arizona Wildcats came into Saturday night’s game against UCLA as 11-point underdogs. Though Arizona kept it close in the first half, the Bruins covered the spread and then some, en route to a 45-24 win at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California.

Redshirt sophomore Brandon Dawkins looked composed on the Wildcats’ second drive of the game and led them down the field for the first score on five plays which covered 79 yards. Arizona took a quick 7-0 lead, its last of the game. 

UCLA woke up and started to pick apart the Wildcat defense as the game wore on. Rosen threw for 350 yards and three touchdowns and despite a consistent Wildcat attack on defense, still managed to make huge plays through the air while getting hit.

“He’s a great quarterback and we got some hits on him, he just made some great plays,” Arizona linebacker Cody Ippolito said.

Both offenses were inefficient in the first half as the Bruins took a 14-7 lead into the locker room. The Wildcats had opportunity after opportunity to get back in the game but were unable to due to uncertainty at quarterback.

Dawkins’ play was an issue for the Wildcats. After a hit during the first quarter, he appeared to be wincing in pain and was not accurate for the better part of the first half after the initial score of the game. Dawkins inability to run began to cost the Wildcats as the Bruins forced him to throw time and time again.

Dawkins came out with sophomore quarterback Zach Werlinger taking snaps midway through the second quarter. Dawkins would return to the game, but so would Werlinger before the end of the half.

The ineffectiveness at quarterback led to seven straight three-and-outs and left head coach Rich Rodriguez scrambling for solutions going into halftime.

In addition to the struggles under center, junior running back Nick Wilson re-injured his ankle and the running game struggles worsened.

The Wildcats’ defense held up well against the Bruins after the first quarter, pressuring Rosen time and time again and shutting down the rushing attack to the tune of 27 total rushing yards in the first half. Unfortunately, for the Wildcats, there are two halves and the Bruins regained their footing to produce 98 yards on the ground and three scores in the second half.

The Wildcats inability to sustain drives caught up to the them as Rosen picked them apart in the second half. Time and time again the Arizona defense was in position to make plays only to see Bruin blue get around them for multiple scores. The Bruins scored on their last five drives of the game minus the kneel down at the end.

True freshman quarterback Khalil Tate, who came in to the game the second half, was the lone bright spot for a team that has been riddled with injuries so far throughout the season. Tate made play after play with his legs and arms as he threw for 79 yards and two touchdowns to go along with 79 yards rushing.

“The older guys have done a good job of telling me to always be ready and to keep my head up,” Tate said. “We were just doing some basic things that they couldn’t stop.”

Rodriguez was pleased with Tate and how he responded to being thrown into the game unexpectedly.

“I thought he competed well,” Rodriguez said. “[Quarterback’s] Coach Rod Smith has done a great job of giving him some parts of the offense to learn…he made some plays and ran well. He did some decent things.”

The team is searching for answers after a game in which it gave up 31 second-half points. The defensive schemes seemed to put the Wildcats into position, you have to wonder if UA has the personnel to keep up in the Pac-12 Conference at this point.

Arizona will once again play on the road next Saturday against Utah with the looks of a fifth consecutive bowl game getting getting more bleak by the minute.


Follow Saul Bookman on Twitter.


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